Toto Wolff quipped that the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix showdown with Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ championship should be a fair fight and backed the FIA race director to perform better than Michael Masi in 2021.
Mercedes head to Abu Dhabi for a winner-takes-all championship showdown for the second time in three years, invoking painful memories of 2021 when race director Masi broke Formula 1 regulations to hand Max Verstappen the drivers’ title.
Hamilton had been on course to take the win before Masi’s ‘human error’, but the stakes are lower this time around, Mercedes and Ferrari are separated by four points for second in the constructors’ championship.
“I think we’re going down pretty much equal points with a proper race director so should that should be fine,” Wolff told the media. “And then let’s race, it’s all down to the last weekend. They are very quick, they’ve done a good job.”
Ferrari gained 16 points on Mercedes at the 2023 Las Vegas GP despite Carlos Sainz‘s harsh 10-place grid penalty, which even the stewards admitted was unfair.
Lewis Hamilton never really dialled into The Strip Circuit and was seventh, while George Russell was better but earned himself a five-second penalty that dropped him from fifth to eighth – costing six points.
Meanwhile, Leclerc was in a race-long battle for the lead and pipped Sergio Perez for second on the last lap, and Carlos Sainz was sixth – benefitted from Russell’s penalty.
“I think we could have been on par today but the result shows something different,” Wolff added. “So let’s race, to be honest it’s good to have P2 as a positive to finish the season but P2, P3 it doesn’t make me particularly cheer anyway, it doesn’t make it better for me.”
Wolff: Las Vegas a microcosm of Mercedes’ season
Russell admitted blame for the Verstappen crash that earned him the penalty, but Hamilton‘s race was also compromised, and by two racing incidents.
He suffered a puncture after very light tyre contact with Oscar Piastri, and was also held up by the Turn 1 chaos as several drivers lost control on the low-grip surface.
“It summarises the season: would’ve, should’ve, could’ve,” Wolff said. “We had the pace of the leaders when Lewis had no traffic, that was pretty much where the gap was racing in terms of lap times.
“You make your own luck but we had more bad luck, today seventh and eighth, these two cars could’ve been on the podium but they weren’t.”